24 Creighton L. Rev. 965 (1990-1991)
Asbestos Litigation and Statutes of Repose: The Application of the Discovery Rule in the Eighth Circuit Allows Plaintiffs to Breathe Easier

handle is hein.journals/creigh24 and id is 979 raw text is: ASBESTOS LITIGATION AND STATUTES OF
REPOSE: THE APPLICATION OF THE DISCOVERY
RULE IN THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT ALLOWS
PLAINTIFFS TO BREATHE EASIER
INTRODUCTION
Asbestos has been known to man for centuries.' The ability of
asbestos to perform the functions of insulation and resistance to fire,
while remaining relatively indestructible, has led to its use in
thousands of products.2 Only recently has society become aware of
the dangers to human health and life associated with using one of the
most dangerous materials of nature.3 In recent years, litigation in-
volving asbestos-related injuries has increased dramatically.4
Three diseases have been positively linked with exposure to as-
bestos fibers: asbestosis, mesothelioma, and various cancers.5 The
diseases associated with asbestos exposure are all characterized by
long latency periods.6 During the latency period, the disease is dor-
mant and not capable of being detected through routine examina-
tion.7 The latency period for asbestosis has been estimated at ten to
forty years following exposure to large quantities of asbestos fibers.8
1. Mehaffy, Asbestos-Related Lung Disease, 16 FoRUM 341, 342 (1980). The use of
asbestos dates back to the fifth century B.C. Early writers such as Pliny the Elder,
Herodotus and Plutarch mentioned it. Benjamin Franklin owned a purse made out of
asbestos and firemen wore asbestos clothing as early as 1827. Id.
2. Id. at 341-42; T. WI.LGING, TRENDS IN ASBESTOS LITIGATION 7 (Federal Judi-
cial Center 1987).
3. Mehaffy, 16 FORUM at 341-42.
4. Classen, An Investigation into the Statute of Limitations and Product Identi-
fiation in Asbestos Litigation, 30 How. L.J. 1, 1 (1987). The number of cases grows
every year because of the long latency period associated with asbestos-related diseases.
Id.
5. T. WILLGING, supra note 2, at 5. Asbestosis is a pulmonary insufficiency
caused by a destruction of air sacs in healthy lung tissue. Id. at 5 n.8 (citing Selikoff,
Churg & Hammond, Asbestos Exposure and Neoplasia, 188 J. A.M.A. 22, 25 (1964)).
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer... that affects the mesothelial cells that make up
the pleural, pericardial, and peritoneal membranes enclosing the lungs, heart, and ab-
domen, respectively. T. WiLLGING, supra note 2, at 5 n.9 (citing B. CASTLEMAN, AS.
BESTOS: MEDICAL AND LEGAL ASPEc'rs 302 (2d ed. 1986). Asbestos exposure is
associated with lung and gastrointestinal cancer. T. WILLGING, supra note 2, at 5. Car-
cinoma of the esophagus, larynx, stomach, rectum, and colon are suspected to be
caused by exposure to asbestos. 5A LAWYERS' MEDICAL CYCLOPEDIA 33.54, at 67 (3d ed.
1986 & Supp. 1988).
6. T. WILLGING, supra note 2, at 5-6. Latency period refers to the period between
exposure to asbestos and manifestation of the disease. Id. at 6.
7. Id.
8. Id. The latency period varies according to the age of the worker and the level
of exposure. Id. at 6 n.11. Mesothelioma has been observed with increasing frequency

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